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Know Thy Opponent 2017: Wisconsin Badgers

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Wisconsin is currently tied for the longest winning streak of any opponent over Purdue.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

And now we get the game I dread every year. In a series that was once relatively close between Purdue and Wisconsin the Badgers have blown it open. They have now won 11 straight dating back to Purdue’s win in Madison in 2003. That was the last time Purdue finished with a better record than the Badgers, too. No team in the Big Ten has a longer winning streak over Purdue:

Big Ten Streaks involving Purdue

Illinois: Purdue - 1 straight (TAKE THAT, ILLINI!)

Indiana: Indiana - 4 straight

Iowa: Iowa - 4 straight

Maryland: Maryland - 2 straight

Michigan: Michigan - 3 straight

Michigan State: Michigan State - 7 straight

Minnesota: Minnesota - 4 straight

Nebraska: Nebraska - 1 straight

Northwestern: Northwestern - 3 straight

Ohio State: Ohio State - 2 straight

Penn State: Penn State - 8 straight

Rutgers: Never played

Wisconsin: Wisconsin - 11 straight

How bad is it? Even against the league powers the longest losing streaks Purdue has had are only 9 against Michigan, 7 against Ohio State, and the current 8 game skid against Penn State. Purdue dropping 11 in a row to the Badgers is officially its longest ever losing streak against a Big Ten opponent. No Big Ten team has beaten Purdue more than the 47 victories Wisconsin now has, and if the Badgers win this year they will pass Notre Dame for the longest winning streak of any school over Purdue. The Irish have beaten Purdue a record 56 times, but only won 11 straight from 1986-96.

For the most part the games haven’t even been close, either. You have “The Fumble”, which was the official start of the streak at 20-17. Since then, Purdue has failed to score more than 20 points in every game against the Badgers, and conversely, Wisconsin has been held under 30 only twice. The closest game was probably the 24-7 loss at Wisconsin in 2015. That was a game where Purdue only trailed 10-7 until the final play of the third quarter. The defense did a good job, but the Shoopfense was in full glory. John Shoop’s “game plan” was to get less than 200 yards (191 total) and score only because of a lengthy interception return (setting up a 29 yard “drive”). It completely wasted a pretty good day defensively. Purdue even held Wisconsin under 100 yards rushing as a team (for the whole game, not just a quarter!) but it wasn’t enough.

So will it change this year? Well, not likely. Wisconsin is still going to be a good team, and it seems like the one thing we can count on year-in, year-out since The Fumble is Wisconsin beating Purdue.

Wisconsin Badgers

2016 Record: 11-3, 7-2 (Big Ten Runner-up

Bowl Result: beat Western Michigan 24-16 in Cotton Bowl

Blog Representation: Bucky’s 5th Quarter

Series with Purdue: Wisconsin leads 47-29-8

Last Purdue win: 26-23 at Wisconsin on 10/18/2003

Last Wisconisn win: 49-20 at Purdue on 11/19/2016

Head Coach: Paul Chryst (21-6 in 3rd year at Wisconsin, 40-25 overall)

Last Season for the Badgers:

In an alternate universe somewhere Paul Chryst is entering his 9th season as Purdue’s head coach. He has taken us to multiple Rose Bowls and has built upon the work Joe Tiller started. Obviously, that did not happen, but at one time there was a real chance that Chryst was going to be Tiller’s replacement and not Danny Hope. If rumors are to be believed, the level of commitment from the administration was a factor in his decision to remove himself from consideration.

Chryst never came. That is an apt metaphor for our football program that has been languishing in purgatory for most of a decade now. Wisconsin has had no such troubles. Under Chryst that have never had fewer than 10 wins, they have played in yet another Big Ten title game, and they are fresh off of a major bowl win over a pretty good Western Michigan team in the Cotton Bowl. Last year they blew a big early lead on Penn State in the Big Ten title game, making them 0-3 against the Big Ten East’s top three but 11-0 against everyone else. That included wins over top 10 teams in LSU, Nebraska, and Michigan State (yes, we forget MSU was ranked 8th last year when they lost to Wisconsin).

Most people would take that in a heartbeat. Purdue fans would be doing backflips for sure. heading into this season the expectations are pretty clear: They are to win the Big Ten West and return to Indianapolis for another shot at the conference title.

Wisconsin Offense

Hopefully new defensive coordinator Nick Holt can do something about Purdue’s porous run defense because the SB Nation preview headline of “The 2017 Badgers might be the most Wisconsin football team ever” would make any Purdue fan scared. During this 11 game winning streak for Wisconsin the game plan has often been very simple: handoff to a talented running back behind a massive offensive line, let him run for 200+ yards, and repeat.

Corey Clement is gone, but Bradrick Shaw and Pitt transfer Chris James are expected to split the carries. Really though, with Wisconsin’s regular offensive line a recently deceased person could probably rush for 100 yards in at least one game. Against some Purdue’s putrid defenses of the last few years that number could reach 250.

That line is massive once again, with the top 7 rotation guys averaging 6’6”, 321 pounds. Beau Benzschawel was an all-Big Ten selection in 2016. None of the top guys are seniors and they even have a couple of freshmen in there with Cole Van Lanen and Kayden Lyles. They will do a fine job of keeping either Alex Hornibrook clean.

Bart Houston and Hornibrook split time last season with nearly identical numbers. They both had roughly 1,250 yards passing, but Hornibrook had 9 TDs and 7 interceptions compared to Houston’s 5 TDs and 3 interceptions. Houston is gone, but Hornibrook gets top receivers Jazz Peavey (43-635-5) and tight end Troy Fumagalli (47-580-2) back. Most of the time a Wisconsin QB’s job is to basically handoff, make the occasional throw, and not screw up, however. Jim Sorgi won a Super Bowl ring because of this.

This is probably going to be your typical Wisconsin team. They’ll run over people, try to get to 24 points, and have a defense good enough to hold teams under 20. Simple equation, really.

Wisconsin Defense

In regards to that defense, keeping teams under 20 was its specialty last season. In 14 games only Penn State (38-31 in the Big Ten title game) and Ohio State (30-23 in overtime) scored more than 20 points on the Badgers. We got to see how good it was first hand when T.J. Watt had his infamous pick-6 of David Blough. He is gone, but overall the defense has a tone of experience returning.

Linebacker T.J. Edwards will be one of the best in the conference. Last season he led Wisconsin with 89 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, and he was generally all over the field. Jack Cichy and Ryan Connelly are also back at linebacker and each had over 55 tackles.

Up front the Wisconsin defensive line should be fearsome again. Watt had 11.5 sacks, but there is experience to recover up front. Chikwe Obasih should have a breakout year at defensive end. Andrew Van Ginkel is an incoming JuCo transfer that could start immediately.

In the defensive backfield Wisconsin has to replace a compbined nine interceptions from Leo Musso and Sojourn Shelton. Still, this team picked off 22 passes last season. D’Cota Dixon had four interceptions and 60 tackles at safety. Natrell Jamerson, Derrick Tindal, and Lubern Figaro are all senior starters to go with Dixon, so the defense will be fine.

Wisconsin Special Teams

Not a whole lot stood out for Wisconsin on Special Teams last year. Rafael Gaglianone and Andrew Endicott split placekicking duties due to an injury to Gaglianone and were a combined 20 of 27. Both have 50 yard range, so there are no real worries there. The punting game was among the worst in the big Ten with Anthony Lotti averaging only 37.7 yards per kick. Gaglianone will be back to handle the kicking game, but there is not much there at punter.

Game Outlook

It is Purdue and Wisconsin. This series has not been pretty for a while with only one game in the last decade anything close to competitive in the second half. The games in Madison have been even worse.

Purdue has scored 20, 0, 17, 10, and 7 in its last five trips there. The only multi-TD game in the last four up there came about because Raheem Mostert had a record day on kickoff returns and got plenty of chances to do so with the defense giving up 62 points. We haven’t scored 20 points since Curtis Painter made his first career start in 2005. The last time we scored 30 in Madison some guy named Drew Brees was taking us to Pasadena.

We have been waiting for it for a while, but this is the true measuring stick game for a new Purdue coach. Purdue has been unable to even be close to the Badgers under Hazell and Hope. Tiller’s final three games against the Badgers were at least competitive (20-17, 31-20, and 24-3 losses), but that is where the slide began. Nowhere else has Purdue’s slide been more obvious than against Wisconsin, which is ironic because KYLE ORTON SHOULD HAVE FLIPPIN’ SLID DAMMIT!

Way-Too-Early Prediction

Jeff Brohm will be the coach of Purdue in our next win over Wisconsin. It just won’t be this year. Wisconsin is still the class of the West Division and I don’t see Purdue rolling into Madison and winning. Wisconsin 34, Purdue 14